Posts Tagged ‘Padstow’

“Go west, young man, go west. There is health in the country and room away from our crowds…” Horace Greeley

 “If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.” Bobby Troup

After our weather-turbulent Christmas we were pleased to get away for a few days to blow away the cobwebs, taking advice from both the above quotations. We headed to Cornwall, the most south-westerly county of the United Kingdom, where the jaggedly ragged land stretches into the Atlantic, fashioned over time by crashing coastal attrition. Cornwall –  land of Arthurian legend, of piskies and sprites  and of that famous snack once a staple of  Cornish tin miners – the Cornish pasty.

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North Cornish coast

Because the traffic reports were so horrendous we abandoned our favourite route – that of the trusty old A303 (part of the original artery to the west country from London, passing as it does by Stonehenge and so steeped in folklore along its course there is even a book written about it), and plumped for keeping to the longer and infinitely more boring motorway network.

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Narrow entrance to Boscastle Harbour

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Boscastle harbour snapped on my phone – hence the colouring!

However, this paid off and we were in north Cornwall within four and a half hours, driving along its wild coastline, past Boscastle (the site of terrible flooding a few years ago), the salt spray and spume mixing with bracing fresh air as we left the car and battled with the elements to stretch our legs along the cliff path at Port Isaac (now overly popular since the filming of the TV series, Doc Martin).

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Boats in Padstow harbour

We based ourselves in Padstow, a small but lively fishing port, nestling next to the river Camel and home to the burgeoning empire of celebrity chef and travel presenter, Rick Stein, whose seafood restaurant with rooms is a delight if anything sea related tempts your palate. He has several food emporia in the town – a deli, a bistro, a café and a gift shop and while locals may regard it as overkill, his presence has ensured a steady stream of tourists which has helped other businesses to flourish.

As Cornwall is a long and narrow county, it is easy to hop from north to south coast with relative ease when the weather changes suddenly, so altering geographical location can be a distinct advantage.  As things were looking inclement, we drove down to the Eden Project, near St Austell. Opened in 2001 and the brainchild of Tim Smit, the Eden Project is the largest collection of indoor rainforest plants in the world and is billed as a top eco visitor attraction. We’ve been meaning to check it out for years.

Turning up on spec though, is not to be recommended. It wasn’t particularly busy, which from our point of view is a good thing but it cost us a fortune to get in. Apparently our tickets are valid for re-entry for one year but booking online is a much more economic way to have a day out.

The plants are housed in massive ‘biomes’ – huge domes resembling the chrysalis of some enormous science-fiction horror insect. We wended our way through a humid jungle path interspersed with display boards informing us of the various species and their uses around the world. After the jungle biome, there is the Mediterranean biome where a lone flamenco guitarist attempts to create some atmosphere.

Now, taking into account that it was just after Christmas and that everywhere always looks a little like the aftermath of Armageddon, I can’t help having a little moan. I know this is a charity and I know that much of the work here is done by volunteers, but to be honest, it looked a bit tired to me. Considering there is so much in the press these days about students needing to volunteer to get at least a toe in our ever shrinking job market I reckon they could advertise for a few more of them to tidy the place up and repaint the information boards; do a bit of weeding. Although we found it interesting, I can’t see us rushing back to make more use of our very pricey annual ticket.

Back on the north coast again, the weather cleared to that extraordinary light for which Cornwall is famous and we set off for a long trek up the cliff path at Padstow and down onto the wide stretches of golden sand washed clean by the stormy waves of the previous few days.

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Padstow beach alongside the river Camel estuary

There is nothing like a breath of sea air to restore wellbeing  after festive over indulgence and we left Cornwall feeling refreshed and ready to tackle anything that the New Year celebrations might bring. We returned on the A303 and stopped off to see the new visitor’s centre at Stonehenge. It was packed; there were queues. We didn’t wait, having been fortunate in our youth to see the stones close up. Nowadays you have to take a shuttle bus and view the stones from behind a fence on a tarmac path; but that’s progress, I guess.

As we drove homeward memories of that Cornish light kept re-entering my mind and I thought back to previous trips westward, during summer months, to St Ives, an artist’s colony where we discovered something truly magical.

But I‘ll leave that till my next post – Barbara’s Hidden Studio.

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